Will There Be a November Surprise Because GOP House Is on Strike?

July 14, 2014 by  
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By Mark Green

We know about the six-year curse, POTUS’ polls and vulnerable red-state Democrats. But as jobs and the ACA rebound — and the House grouses about borders, wages and IUDs — can Democrats run well this fall against a Do-Nothing/Know-Nothing GOP? Lamarche and R. Christie debate these issues, Boehner’s lawsuit and the president’s Wahlbergian taunts.

*On the Border Disorder. Ron Christie says that “both sides are complicit but Obama’s mostly to blame because he sent signals to illegals to come here and they wouldn’t get deported.” Wait, hasn’t he deported 2 million in five-and-a-half years? Ron insists that clearly people in Central America getting some new message given this surge of children.

Gara LaMarche counters that there are humanitarian crises all over the world as refugees seek better lives and/or escape violence, like the extraordinary violence in these countries of origin. And if House Republicans had scheduled a vote on the Senate bill for comprehensive immigration reform, perhaps this crisis and future ones could have been averted… not to mention that the 2008 Bush-Feinstein bipartisan amendment requires due process hearings in these cases to reduce human trafficking.

Is Senator Lindsay Graham right to predict that if the GOP doesn’t agree to some version of Obama’s proposed $3.7 billion package to expedite hearings and shelter the children, they’ll get politically blamed? Gara agrees — how can they credibly scream the situation is dire and then block a solution? Ron thinks that “eventually Congress will have to put politics aside” because of the dislocated children to do something along the lines of the Obama proposal.

Last: we listen to Obama’s snarky retort quoting Mark Wahlberg’s line in The Departed when a cop on stakeout loses his suspect and asks who Wahlberg is: “I’m the guy doing my job — you must be the other guy!” Given how the GOP has demonized and rebuffed everything Obama does, can his jokey sarcasm work this fall to make the case against a unproductive #DoNothing/KnowNothingHouse?

“Maybe,” says Lamarche, brilliantly avoiding any possible contradiction. “No,” says Christie, who thinks it unserious and off-putting. “The Senate is gone [to the Republicans].” “Yes” says the Host since the House GOP is taking a risk by appeasing its fringe base while rejecting urgent and popular change like immigration reform, the minimum wage, gun safety, infrastructure spending… instead suing the president, in his words, “for doing something while they do nothing.”

Host: Two questions: how can it be a crisis of border security since the escaping children have nearly all interacted with border patrols; and would the GOP really have deported Dreamers who have lived all their lives in U.S. back to countries of their parents?

*On the Hobby Lobby Aftermath. Ron applauds a result compelled by the bipartisan Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1994 signed by President Clinton since government can provide this service without forcing the owners to violate their religious conscience. But the law never anticipated that corporations, as opposed to actual people, would possess religious rights. (Yes owners may pray for profits, but souls…?)

Gara fears this apparently small ruling could open up a large loophole allowing any owner to refuse to comply with a law that they “sincerely claim” offends their religion — “you don’t get to choose your own science.” For example, what about Jehovahs Witnesses opposed to all inoculations… Mormans who at one time wouldn’t admit Blacks… many Orthodox Jews currently want to segregate women and men in religious and perhaps commercial establishments? Or more immediately, what if Hobby Lobby refused to serve the LGBT community?

Did the Religious Right win in court but lose at the ballot box? Gara thinks so because the huge swing voting bloc of single and suburban women won’t like the GOP telling them that their bosses can overrule their reproductive rights. Ron rejects such a “war on women” as “despicable” demagoguery. But there was a large gender gap of 11 points favoring Obama over Romney… and it’s hard to see how Democrats can’t and wouldn’t use this ruling of five Republican justices in their favor this fall.

Also, five catholic men. Is that a fair point to discuss or a dangerous road to go down? Ron and Gara agree that there’s no specific evidence the majority’s religious beliefs affected their decision (though Bill Maher reminds listeners how openly religious Scalia is, including his belief in an actual Devil). But on the other hand, they agree that it’s acceptable to note that all three women justices — Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor — agreed to Ginsburg’s angry dissent.

*On 6.1 Percent Unemployment. Remember jobs and growth? Voters do… and will. And remember all the pundits saying a few months ago that an awful economy and failing ACA would destroy Democratic prospects this Fall?

Does the 6.1 percent unemployment rate and record Dow change that? Christie thinks the BLS statistics were awful given the number of people who left the workforce or took part-time jobs — but since that was likely because the ACA meant they could get health insurance without working, is that a bad thing? While Lamarche argues that Democrats should not appear over-enthusiastic and run on a “Morning in America” theme, they will and should say the economy is a helluva lot better than under Bush as an example of how they’re “on your side.”

Quick Takes: Romney and Israel

What does the panel think of Rep. Chaffetz’s prediction that his friend Mitt Romney is likely to make a third bid for the presidency in 2016? Gara and Ron agree that it’s possible due to the relatively weak Republican field given Chris (no relation) Christie’s woes and Jeb Bush’s lack of intensity. Then Ron makes news: “watch out for my former boss Gov. John Kasich,” since he’s from Ohio-Ohio-Ohio and is likely to win reelection easily.

As for the Hamas-Israel military exchanges (the show is taped as Israelis troops are amassing on the Gaza border), there’s a consensus that there’s no moral equivalence. Whatever the ancient claims on this sliver of land amidst 22 Arab countries, Hamas certainly provoked the crisis by not repudiating the murder of three Israeli teens and then launching rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

Three things:

  • An IDF general said on CNN’s The Situation Room that “Israel uses weapons to protect civilians while Hamas uses civilians to protect weapons.”
  • Atlantic senior writer (and BSN regular) David Frum tweeted this insight: “Hamas: ‘We’re the victims because our indiscriminate rocket fire in the war we started isn’t killing as many civilians as we expected.”
  • Still, Israel has to carefully weigh the political, military and human consequences of a very disproportionate response that kills a large number of civilians in the search for rocket launchers.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

Send all comments to Bothsidesradio.com, where you can also listen to prior shows.

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Crumbs Cupcakes Saved By Reality TV Host

July 13, 2014 by  
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Fear not, cupcake fans: Crumbs Bake Shop will live to see another day.

Marcus Lemonis, the owner of Dippin’ Dots and host of CNBC reality show “The Profit,” is stepping in to save the recently closed cupcake chain, according to a press release published late Friday night.

Lemonis and Fischer Enterprises L.L.C. formed a joint venture, Lemonis Fischer Acquisition Company, which plans to acquire the shops.

Crumbs will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to the Chicago Tribune, before reopening as a private company and reinstating its employees.

“I truly believe in the Crumbs brand and am excited to help the Company enter into a new chapter in its history,” said Lemonis in the press release.

Earlier this week, Crumbs abruptly announced that it would close all 48 of its stores across 10 states.

The investors acknowledged that Crumbs’ “had historically implemented a retail expansion strategy that was ultimately proven unsustainable.” Now, the future owners say they will expand the company to a more wide-ranging sweets shop, rather than just a store that sells only cupcakes.
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Bill Maher Blasts ‘Useless Obama Hacks’ Who Refuse To Criticize NSA Surveilance

July 12, 2014 by  
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Bill Maher took a stab at NSA spying during his July 11 episode of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.” He pointed fingers at liberals who refuse to criticize surveillance under President Obama’s administration. During the segment he said, “If this was happening under Bush, liberals would be apoplectic. I’m sorry, but liberals are just sometimes useless Obama hacks without a shred of intellectual honesty.”

Congresswoman Donna Edwards agreed, and said that she thought the NSA “greatly overreached,” noting that Congress hasn’t set any boundaries. “I don’t agree with the administration’s policy on the NSA,” she said. Author Ron Suskind added that during Bush’s administration, no one proved the NSA’s spying took place. “The one thing’s Snowden has done is prove the goods to make the case that this is real,” he said. What the whole clip above, via Mediaite.
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If Even One Person Believes Steven Spielberg Killed A Dino, It’s Too Many

July 11, 2014 by  
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At HuffPost Weird, we don’t have much faith in humanity. But we do have enough faith to believe that almost nobody seriously thought this photo was real:

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Well, “real” in the sense that it seriously portrays a slaughtered animal. It IS real in the sense that it is an actual photo, which shows director Steven Spielberg on the set of “Jurassic Park,” posed next to one of the animatronic dinosaurs used in the film.

Facebook user Jay Branscomb posted the photo last week. His caption is seemingly a reference to Kendall Jones, a cheerleader who angered the public by posting photos of herself with trophy kills in South Africa.

Branscomb’s caption reads:

“Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.”

Since Branscomb’s post, a myriad of websites have claimed that “gullible” people on the Internet were “outraged” after believing that Spielberg had actually killed a Triceratrops. Fox 8 declared the photo “outraged the Internet,” LAist claimed the photos “sparked massive outrage,” and Buzzfeed asserted that “a whole bunch of people” believe Spielberg really downed a Triceratops.

Intrepid HuffPost Weird News reporters took a deep dive into the thousands of comments on Branscomb’s photo, and found that in reality, a miniscule number of Facebook users — if any — believed the photo shows a real dinosaur.

The vast majority of “outraged” commenters were clearly in on the joke:

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Even some of the examples specifically cited by other outlets as gullible morons did not hold up to close inspection.

Gawker and Buzzfeed both mocked Vincent Smith for this post:

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But Smith was almost certainly kidding. He made DOZENS of comments on the post, including “At this rate triceratops will be extinct in -6 million years,” and “Hollywood killed all the dinosaurs.” He also stated he “likes BBQ triceratops.”

Commenters themselves pointed out that most of the “outraged” posts were actually in on the joke:

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We have to admit, though, there was at least one comment that we truly weren’t sure about:

A buncha people on Facebook think Steven Spielberg killed a real triceratops http://t.co/4wBxC9VpcX pic.twitter.com/hEej8g4ruH

— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) July 11, 2014

If this woman was trolling, she did a great job.

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Bob Beckel Uses Racial Slur On Live Television

July 10, 2014 by  
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Fox News host Bob Beckel used a racial slur in a rant about China on ‘The Five’ today.

“The Chinese are the single biggest threat to the national security of the US,” he said. “They have been, they will be and they can wait, they’re very patient. Do you know what we just did? As usual, we bring them over here and we teach a bunch of Chinamen– er, Chinese people– how to do computers and then they go back to China and hack into us.”

The other ‘Five’ hosts gaped in disbelief.

“That is going to end up on The Soup,” Andrea Tantaros said.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Beckel has made an offensive comment about Asian people.

Last year, he said that, after going swimming, his “eyes blew up, and it made me look Oriental.”

He’s also used the term “crackers” to describe white people.

Classy!
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Why Google’s Takedown of News Links in the EU Is a Good Thing

July 9, 2014 by  
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Because the EU has recognized a “right to be forgotten,” it is now possible for European citizens to request that Google remove links to stories that provide information about their lives. This means that the BBC and other news outlets are starting to get notices from Google informing them that some of their content will no longer come up in Google searches.

There are two ways to look at this. The first response, which we will no doubt hear from Google itself, is that an overweening EU government is giving its squeamish citizens the power to edit history. “It’s just like Orwell’s 1984,” we will no doubt hear, “We cannot let the record of the past be deleted just because some people are uncomfortable with it!”

This response makes sense only if you already equate what comes up in a Google search with an objective record of history. I have written in The Nation about the dangers of treating Google’s search algorithm as an objectively relevant response to any query. When you search for a term on Google, at least 57 different variables determine the list of responses you get, and not all of those signals are objective.

For example, If I search for “next gen iPad” on my computer, I’ll not only get a different set of results than you will, but some of both of our results will be links to ads for companies that have a relationship to Google, mixed in with news stories about Apple’s product line. Google has already been warned by the US Federal Trade Commission not to surreptitiously direct search traffic back to its own services rather than out into the rest of the Web. The European Commission has warned Google about exactly the same behavior. If you’re looking for an overweening power that wants to rewrite the record of the world’s information, it isn’t the EU but Google itself that you should be worried about.

The furor over Google’s removal of news links in the EU will, I hope, alert people to the dangers of allowing a single, commercially motivated entity to effectively be the sole gatekeeper and organizer of the Web’s information. Google will tell you that the competition is “just one click away,” but their dominance in search is unquestionable. They control something like 67 percent of search traffic in the US and close to 90 percent of it in the EU. If it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist.

I have written before about why I think the right to be forgotten is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that I think we should allow history or the record of recent events to be eradicated. That’s why we have libraries and long established rules for classifying and judging the value of information, e.g. the Dewey Decimal System and peer reviewed scholarship. That’s why we have encyclopedias and newspaper archives. I am writing this very post from deep within a library in Manhattan, where, if I want to know something, I can go downstairs and ask a librarian, who will point me toward a pile of printed information, some of which has been unmolested by the shifting concerns of the outside world for decades. I don’t have to worry about whether this library is changing its shelves around based on an undisclosed commercial relationship it might have, or whether the librarian I am talking to is being paid by somebody or pressured by the government to hide certain sources of information. Or whether, for that matter, the library is handing over my browsing habits to the NSA.

The library I am writing from is able to exist within our economic system but still have as its primary, unpolluted mission the education of its patrons. Our interdependent system of publishers, universities, newspapers, and public and private libraries has done an imperfect but reliable job of keeping objective track of our information, which is no less than our collective picture of the world, for the last five hundred years. Our online information organizing system is still too young and moves too fast to have that kind of reliability, yet that hasn’t stopped us from treating it as infallible.

At a panel discussion I organized and attended earlier this month, I was privileged to meet one of my intellectual heroes, Robert Darnton, who has written about the tensions between commercial interests and the public good in our online information economy. In the panel, he noted that John Milton in his fiery 1644 defense of free speech, Areopagitica, was writing not against the oppressive power of the state but of the printers guilds. Darnton said the same was true of John Locke’s writings about free speech. Locke’s boogeyman wasn’t an oppressive government, but a monopolistic commercial distribution system that was unfriendly to ways of organizing information that didn’t fit into its business model. Sound familiar?

So the second way of thinking about Google’s takedown notices to the press in the EU is to see them as reminders that while we allow one big player to be the effective gatekeepers of all our information, we have no right to be outraged over how its behavior or the consequences of its behavior might distort our collective view of the world.
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Inventor Of Email: People Tell Me ‘I Want To Kill You’

July 8, 2014 by  
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“When I tell people I invented email, the first thing they say is, ‘I want to kill you,’” V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, faculty lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the inventor of email, told the Wall Street Journal.

Not, “thanks for making it easier to keep in touch with my buddy in Australia.” Not, “thank you for saving the countless trees we no longer need to chop down for letter-writing paper.”

We get it. Email is just the worst. But don’t shoot the creator.
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Jake Close, Fugitive, Arrested After Appearing In Newspaper Opinion Column

July 8, 2014 by  
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Everyone in America is free to share an opinion. But in Pennsylvania, expressing an opinion cost one fugitive his freedom.

Jacob “Jake” Close, 25, participated in a “Your Opinion” feature in the June 30 edition of the Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, which included his photo as well as his thoughts on whether the Washington Redskins should change its racially-charged name.

But police were reading the paper too, and when they spotted Close’s photo, they tracked him down and made an arrest:

As you can see in the above image posted on Facebook by media watchdog Jim Romenesko, Close answered: “I think they should keep the same name, but change the mascot to a potato.”

(This echoes an opinion shared by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which endorsed the potato mascot last year.)

Close, a student at Bloomsburg University, was wanted by authorities for jumping bail in Ithaca, N.Y., in a drug/DUI-related case, The Associated Press reports. He’s now being held on $25,000 bail pending extradition to New York.

(h/t Jim Romenesko)
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Bloomberg’s Gun Group To Start 2014 Midterms Strategy By Surveying Candidates

July 7, 2014 by  
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The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association.
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On Being a Foreign Correspondent

July 6, 2014 by  
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Rachele Kanigel’s “10 Tips for Training the Next Generation of Foreign Correspondents” immediately drew my attention but her headline didn’t quite match my expectations.

She focused more on her experience in running a study abroad program than on preparing her charges for the rigors of overseas assignments.

Kanigel, an associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, a former daily newspaper reporter, and an ex-freelancer for magazines and websites, hit on interesting points like making contact with local news organizations in the countries she and her students visited and finding in-country partners – universities, language schools, or media.

But her tips fell short of providing advice on how to equip aspiring correspondents with the necessary skills to function in foreign environments.

It’s true the heyday of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (once co-owned by the mighty New York Times and Washington Post and replaced by the International New York Times), and flashy overseas network TV news bureaus are gone.

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Last issue of the International Herald Tribune (Abu-Fadil)

Not everyone is cut out to be a foreign correspondent.

Whether it’s Belgian cartoon character Tintin or more thought-provoking live examples, foreign correspondents are different animals.

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Screen shot of Tintin and Milou (Snowy)

In 2013, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller opined that it is the golden time of news.

He acknowledged the explosion of news outlets across various platforms on countless permutations of devices but recognized the diminished presence of foreign bureaus and correspondents around the globe.

“Yes, there are fewer and fewer experienced correspondents out there, but I can now access all of them without leaving my desk, and most of this feast will be free,” he wrote. “When auto-translate software gets better, I’ll even have access to news sources in Persian and Mandarin.”

Fair enough.

But nothing beats feet on the ground, eyes to observe and record, ears to distinguish variations in tone, human contact, and interaction with different players in a story.

Keller, a Russian speaker, said freelance work was traditionally the way to break into international reporting, but had increasingly become THE way into that line of business – a trend he found disturbing.

A foreign assignment at a major news organization has traditionally come with traveling expenses, medical coverage, security and first-aid training if you are covering conflict, fixers and translators and, in a few instances, paid leave for language training. It comes with technicians who make sure your computer and satellite phone work. It comes with lawyers in case you get sued or arrested. It comes with editors who will tell you not to take foolish chances, and notify your family if something bad happens.

True.

I’ve been there and done that for newspapers, magazines and international news agencies. It’s quite a load on these organizations.

Yet one shouldn’t minimize the importance of multilingualism, cultural curiosity and sensitivity, a good grasp of history, international relations and economics, top-notch first-aid and security training, media ethics, and, other survival skills needed in foreign and/or hostile environments alongside solid news gathering, writing and digital multimedia proficiency.

Far too many “indies” are drawn by the notion of exotic adventures without realizing the implications.

According to Keller: “They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.”

In the Middle East/North Africa region, for example, a number of past and ongoing conflicts have seen scores of non-local journalists and adventure seekers rush to cover the (insert appropriate cliché) event of the day or week before flitting on to the next hot spot with little regard for what impact their coverage will have.

The other extreme is of correspondents who stay for years and decades covering a country or region only to be accused of having gone native and skewing their reports although a happy medium does exist.

Sadly, the former variety mixed with good and bad citizen journalists using any number of social media and digital tools are taking the lead and their cacophonous content is often deafening and distorted.

You don’t pick up on nuance or acquire substance at the click of a mouse. Like a good wine it requires depth and maturity.

In 2010, Cardiff School of Journalism professor Richard Sambrook wrote “Are Foreign Correspondents Redundant? The Changing Face of International News.”

This insightful Oxford-Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism publication points to the transformation of “foreign” reporting, the role of social media in supplementing and complementing traditional news organizations’ output, and how outside actors like NGOs and governments are circumventing correspondents by going directly to the public with content.

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Screen shot of “Are Foreign Correspondents Redundant?”

Globalization has also led to significant changes in how the world is reported, an executive summary of the report said.

In multicultural societies the notion of ‘foreign’ is more complex. International and domestic news agendas have merged to a significant degree. More organisations are relying on local staff – with advantages and risks attached.

Four years later we also see growing reliance on drones and robo-journalists to collect and curate information.

It’s a far cry from the golden and privileged days of TIME when my late mentor Wilton Wynn headed the magazine’s bureaus in Cairo, Beirut and Rome and was deemed an expert on the Middle East and the Vatican.

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Wilton Wynn’s Vatican reference “Keepers of the Keys” (Abu-Fadil)

As Sambrook concluded:

In future, foreign correspondents are likely to be far more diverse in gender, ethnicity and background. They will speak the language and have specialist knowledge of the country before they are eligible to be appointed. They may well have grown up there or lived there before. They will work to multiple deadlines each day across multiple media (text, audio and video), they will be heavily networked with other specialists and with public sources in their area of expertise. Their network of sources will be counted in the hundreds. Their brief may not be purely geographical, but subject-led as well. They may work for several different organisations as a stringer or freelance rather than being on the staff of one organisation. They are more likely to work from home. They will be addressing multiple audiences around the world and will be aware that they are not the only, or even main, source of information. Their role will be as much about verification, interpretation and explanation as revelation. As such they will need social and collaborative skills. They will take steps to ensure the way they work is as transparent as possible in order to win the trust of editors and the public.

So before launching their students on this path, journalism faculty members should consider immersion courses in how to function as 21st Century foreign correspondents and provide initial hands-on training in foreign countries as orientation for what lies ahead.

Good preparation is half the battle.
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